Rowers take on Scotland’s coast – all 1,800 miles of it

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‘Oar’some communities across Scotland are getting ready to row around Scotland.

Former Cambridge Blue and Great Britain rower Sue Fenton from Seil is co-director of the first ever relay expedition attempting to circumnavigate over 1,800 miles of the Scottish coastline in an open top boat.

Funding for more than £11,000 has come from has come from the Year of Coasts and Waters Events Fund managed by Event Scotland, beating off stiff competition from other applicants, and the rest is being matched by St Ayles’ Skiff enthusiasts and crowdfunders, all adding pulling power to the challenge that could involve around 350 skiffies and their four oared boats from up to 70 clubs as far apart as Gretna to Orkney.

‘If the tides and wind are with us then it’ll be a doddle but we’re not elite athletes, just communities of all ages connecting with each other and our coastal heritage.

‘It’s going to be fantastic! Each section, with all its different clubs, will have a start and finish date so it’s up to the crews when they do it. It gives them wiggle room for inclement conditions! We wouldn’t want to make people feel they have to go out in Gale Force 5 or 6! Each crew will have about 10 miles to go, it’s not huge but it’s quite a thing,’ said Sue.

Working out safe passages and poring over maritime charts is a huge part of planning ahead and when land gets in the way between baton-handovers, eco-savvy organisers have come up with a water-tight plan.

‘The East Coast goes in a straight line  but the West Coast gets more complicated. We are going to try and link the off-shore clubs by using sustainable transport – horses, runners and bicycles to pass the baton on,’ said Sue.

Out on the water, skiff crews will also be turning filmmakers capturing footage on GoPros for a film destined for ocean and outdoor festival screens and will also be doing their bit to save the planet – taking water samples for micro-plastics.

The ambitious relay, starting from Gretna in April and ending six months later at Loch Tummel, will be part of the Year of Coast and Waters 2020 celebrations and marks the 10th anniversary of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association (SCRA).

May will see the start of the Argyll section, with the Mid-Argyll Rowing Club coming through the Crinan then up the coast to Oban, taking in Craignish – who hope to have a skiff ready by then, said Sue. Other clubs in that section include Seil, Luing, Oban, Mull, Iona, Tiree, Appin, Glencoe and Fort William.

Those staying on dry land will still be able to follow the whole expedition’s progress as it travels clockwise around the coast because the baton will be fitted with a special tracker transmitting directly to a dedicated website and the RowAroundScotland Facebook page.

The relay’s final stretch will be crewed by members of SCRA’s first clubs from 2009 arriving at Loch Tummel just in time for the association’s annual general meeting on October 24.